FORT BRAGG, NC – The U.S. Army Special Operations Command announced the winners of its 2009 Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Competition in a ceremony June 12.
Sgt. Lucas Miller, a Special Forces medical sergeant from ODA 1235, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), was chosen as the NCO of the year. Spc. Michael Engelsgjerd, an infantryman from C Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was named the Soldier of the year. Both will be continuing on to represent USASOC in the Department of the Army competition at Fort Lee, Va., later this year.
“All of the competitors did outstanding jobs,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Parry L. Baer, USASOC command sergeant major. “They represent the capabilities of the command and the Soldiers who are out there every day on the battlefield performing to make us successful. The interaction they have amongst themselves leads to the camaraderie within the organizations and across the command.”
The competitors faced a 3-day-long challenge testing both their mental and physical capabilities. The event began with a physical fitness test, followed by rifle marksmanship qualification, and day and night land navigation courses. On the second day, the contestants’ skills were tested with common tasks ranging from calling indirect fire to treating a casualty on the battlefield. The final day of competition consisted of an oral board made up of each command sergeant major from the major subordinate units of USASOC.
“It’s an honor to have won,” Engelsgjerd said. “The most difficult part was preparing for the competition. I always felt like I was under-preparing. Just being able to get everything straight and going in with a clear head was definitely the most important part.”
For winning the competition, both Engelsgjerd and Miller received prizes from sponsors of the event including nearly $3,000 in cash and gift certificates, as well as a dress blue uniform and their choice of a Glock pistol.
However, winning the prizes was not what the competition was about, Miller said.
“It just feels good to be able to represent Special Forces and to show we are more elite Soldiers,” he said.
Engelsgjerd echoed the sentiments, saying he looks forward to representing USASOC at the Army-level.
“It’s, I wouldn’t say intimidating, but it’s going to be a good challenge,” he said. “There’s going to be a few different things at the DA-level that we don’t do much of in general training, such as combatives and iron-sight shooting, so we’re going to work on those things.”
Both felt fortunate to be selected, but said they feel they did nothing special.
“Any of the guys I know could do this, it just takes preparation,” Engelsgjerd said. “If you want it enough, you’ll be able to do it.”
Miller said Soldiers should not worry so much about winning as they should on staying relaxed and calm under pressure.
“Don’t be afraid to lose,” he said. “Be confident, go in there to have fun and be relaxed.”
The runners-up for the competition were Sgt. 1st Class James Graham from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and Spc. Daniel Bates from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne). Each are responsible for filling in for Engelsgjerd or Miller should one be unable to compete at the Army competition.
The other finalists in the competition were:
Staff Sgt. Antonio Turner, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne)
Sgt. Reed Pitney, 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne)
Spc. Rajneel Singh, USAJFKSWCS
Spc. David Crews, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
Both runners-up and the other finalists received Certificates of Achievement, as well as various prizes from sponsors of the event.